Monologue

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write about someone grappling with an insecurity.... view prompt

3 comments

Drama Fiction Teens & Young Adult

TW: self harm

“Blood is sticky. A viscous crimson fluid. Regardless of the bleeder it looks the same. It is the ultimate leveler of playing fields. Strip the skin off the bone and voila’ …. red, gelatinous liquid. Blood doesn’t care about skin pigment: Brown, ivory, dark, light, …. Whether the body is young or old. It all looks the same in the phlebotomist’s needle. 


When I cut myself, I bleed red. I sit in the corner of my dimly lit room and filet bracelet scars around my wrists and scrape diagonal stripes along my forearm.  The blood that oozes from my superficial self-infliction moves slowly as it gets caught in the porous crevices of my skin.


I remember the day when I first understood the perks of wearing black. I was in my closet with the door closed. The lava lamp my dad gave me for my birthday was creating ghoulish shapes along the dangling clothes. I drug it in there for light, to see the body shaped image I was etching into my forearm. Pebbles of red popped from my skin and dripped from my elbow toward my fingers. 


A knock at the door made me jump. 


“Patrice, it’s time to go.” I panicked and quickly pulled down my sleeve. 


“Be right there.” I said through the door, trying to sound normal.


When I pulled up my sleeve the blood had soaked into the black liner of my jacket, but only slightly into the leather. Perfect camouflage. Any other color and the stain would have been obvious proof of my discontent. As the blood dried to crusty black it became even less noticeable – colorless, hollow, easy to overlook. Black-bleak, like me. Hidden behind an outer layer caricature that conceals a deep stain.


That was the day I started wearing black, to hide the tracks of blood tears that salivate from my arms.


##


“Thank you.” The director interrupts me and lifts his hand, motioning for me to stop. “Can you sing?” He asks, without commenting on my monologue. His question catches me off guard. 


“Uh-yeah, I sing okay.” I keep my head down and my eyes fixed on the stage left curtain. My charcoal hair conceals my eyes. “Uh, … I thought this was an audition for original monologues … for the winter show?” I ask pensively. My heart races as I wait for an answer.  


The director looks up from his notepad, “Your monologue is a little heavy handed,” he says coldly. “Check the list tomorrow. If you’re lucky enough to get a call-back you’ll be expected to sing.” 


Pete McGregor has a reputation for being demanding, but his response is compassionless. He seems displeased with everything about me. I want to respond to his criticism, but I’ve been working up the courage to do this for several months and don’t want to screw it up - so I swallow my pride and just say, “OK, thank you for the opportunity.” 


I almost gag on the pretense of my words.


“Take a seat with the others.” He says dismissively. 


As I walk toward the stairs his chastisement resumes.


“I don’t understand your character’s perspective. All of that talk about blood … you’re gonna have to give me more than that if you want to cut it in this theatre.” His words are sharp. 


“What’s her problem anyway?” He continues. “Is she depressed?”


Ya think? The sarcastic words almost slip out, but before I can open my mouth Pete hits me with another question. 


“Is she actually suicidal or does she just want attention?” His voice seethes with contempt.


Neither ya dumb ass.  Everything in me wants to blurt out the pissed-off answer simmering on my tongue.  Luckily, thought bubbles don’t exist. If they did, one would have exploded in a mess of anger and humiliation right over my head.  


“Well” … I start to respond, but Pete interrupts again. 


“Rhetorical.” He says glibly.


 “Next.” 


Pete shoos me away like a fly with a sweep of his hand.  


My steel toed boots pound the portable stairs as I rush from the stage. Mortified, I take a seat in the back of the auditorium. 


“Next!” Pete demands. “Sarah Wells.”


Sarah looks petrified as she takes the stage.


“It says here that you have a monologue about …. cleaning horse stalls??” Pete’s tone is belittling.


“Yes sir. I used ta work at a stable in Kentucky. I learned a lot from cleanin' up after the mares.” Sarah’s southern drawl and sweet demeanor are convincing. I cringe for her.


Pete shakes his head in apparent disbelief as Sarah begins.


I slunk down in my seat and analyze the room. The front two rows are filled with the same drama nerds that always show up. “Damn it,” I mumble under my breath. Ashley and Nicole are seated near the front. Ashley’s California-blonde, salon-died hair pops against the spill-light streaming from the stage.


I was really hoping she would pass on this audition since she’s never written - or performed - anything original in her life. She plays the not-so-smart, pretty girl in every spring musical … Her role on stage matches her role in life. Permanently type cast. Her acting is marginal, but she can sing. 


As Sarah finishes, Pete breathes a sigh of relief.


“Check the board tomorrow." He doesn't even give her even one note. 


“Next. Ashley Monroe.”


Ashley sprints up the stairs like she owns the place. 


“Hey Pete,” she says with sickening familiarity. “I’ll be doing Jo March from Little Women.” Her confidence is presumptuous.


“Super original” - I mumble and stick my finger in my mouth pretending to gag. 


“If it’s OK I’d also like to sing Think of Me from Phantom.”


Yep, original, NOT” - I say under my snarky breath.


“That’s OK Ashley, I already know you can sing. Just the monologue.” Pete's response is hard to read.


##


I’ve been thrashing about in my bed for hours. The window is open even though the temperature outside has dropped. The fresh air clears my head, but I’m all twisted up in the top sheet and what ifs about my audition. What if, I had said this, or what if I had done that? 


I’m restless with anticipation and nauseated at the idea of public rejection. I visualize the list – Ashley’s name will be first, of course. I’ve only had one audition, and one call-back, ever. I was actually cast as Victoria in Cats three years ago, but it didn’t pan out....


Shut up - I tell myself, then start to mentally visualize adjectives - alphabetically. My way of counting sheep and staving off anxiety. 


Abandoned.

Bleak.

Cynical.

Damaged. 

Embarrassed.

Fearful …. 


The only words that come to me are honest ones.


Shut up Patrice! Go to sleep. I pull the pillow over my head and roll over.


##

My phone alarm rips me out of a crazy dream. I’m spinning on an iceberg in the starlight wrapped in a white sheet. A biting wind is blowing my black hair across my face and I'm shivering. I watch as warm blood gushes from my arm onto the pristine ice making it melt into a scarlet river, illuminated by the moon.


The obnoxious alarm startles me awake and I gasp for air. I forgot to close the window and my bedroom is freezing. The sheet is twisted around me like a straight-jacket and I start to panic as I try to detangle myself from the shroud. I rip and tear until I finally break free, then sit up.


Whatever. 


I slide out of bed and roll black fishnet stockings up my legs, slip on a black mini-skirt adorned with heavy buckles and pull a black lace bralette over my head. My black leather bomber jacket feels good against my icy skin. I wrap a black choker with steel spikes around my neck. A silver cross dangles in the middle for effect.


I run my fingers through my train-black hair, smear a thick layer of white powder on my face, slather black eyeliner on my eyes and spread a thick coat of charcoal eye shadow across my lids. I finish off the look with blood-red lipstick outlined in black pencil. My piercings are already in place, 6 in each ear, two posts in my nose, and four in my left eyebrow. 


A quick look in the mirror. My monochromatic ensemble suits my angst. 


I head to the door.


##

I wait at a distance and watch the other actors check the call-back list. Ashley and Nicole look first while everyone else waits. Drama royalty. Gag me. 


They skim through the list of names and Ashley shrieks like a friggin banshee - like she just won a Tony. As they walk past Sarah they look her up one side and down the other. Sarah’s wearing flare bottom Levi’s, cowboy boots and a lemon-yellow button up that matches her real blonde curls. Ashley cups her hand beside her mouth, whispers something to Nicole and they laugh uncontrollably. I want to confront them. Actually, I want to punch Ashley right in those perfect cotton candy colored lips of hers and split them wide open. Instead, I wait until they leave and approach Sarah.  Her shoulders are drooped low like the middle of a slinky. 


“Hey, I thought your monologue was great. Don’t let Pete get you down. He obviously didn’t get the symbolism with the horses. I did. I thought it was cool.”


“Thanks.” Ashley smiles a half-smile and walks toward the gym.


Alone, I step toward the board.


It’s there. My name. Right there in plain sight. Patrice Martin. OMG. Call-back today at 3:00. Bring a song.


##

The analog clock on the wall in my last class ticks with each click of the second hand, gnawing at my nerves. It’s 2:40. The bell rings and I head toward the theatre, making sure to walk in right at 3:00, not late, not early. As I let my eyes adjust to the dark room, Ashley’s lightbulb hair pops in the dim light. She’s sitting right behind Pete.


Pete takes the stage.


“Good afternoon ladies.” Pete’s voice reverberates across the room. 


“You’re all here because I was either impressed with your monologue or saw potential in your work.” His voice is paternal.


“As you know, our winter show will be an innovative mix of original female monologues, written by each of you, about something from your life - and a few carefully selected songs. Some of you came prepared yesterday, some of you didn’t. For those of you with a work in progress, please remember that you must limit your monologue to three minutes. 


Those of you who didn’t present an original work will be assigned supportive jobs.”


Pete calls Ashley’s name and she pops out of her seat. 


“You will be the Stage Manager for this production.”


Ashley gasps. “What?! I auditioned for a monologue and I want to sing.”


“I guess you should have come with an original piece yesterday instead of doing a monologue you’ve done a dozen times.” Pete’s chide makes me smile inside. 


“The expectations were clearly outlined in the handout I provided 2 months ago. Do you have a problem with Stage Manager?” 


Ashley's eyes roll as she releases a frustrated breath. “Uh – no,” she answers.


“I’m happy to hear that.” Pete says authoritatively.  


“The rest of you, please move to the front.”


Two girls I don’t know stare at me as I walk past. I feel like a drag queen at a baptism.


Whatever.


One-by-one Pete calls the girls forward to perform their songs. Only one girl out of ten can sing and no one stands out - at least not in a good way. Most of them sound like house cats in heat and even I know that their song choices suck. All overdone. 


Let it GoSomewhere Over the Rainbow.


Seriously?!


I start to panic about my song and recite adjectives in my mind. Where did I leave off?


Oh yeah, G


Grandiose. 

Humiliating.

Inferior.

Jumbled.

Kaput

Lame…”


“Patrice you’re up…….. Patrice.”


Pete’s voice yanks me back to reality. “Oh, uh, OK.”


I move slowly up the stairs and take center stage. My boots feel like lead weights. I am blinded by the spotlight and all I can see is a silhouette of Pete’s head. I take a deep breath and try to gain my composure.


M


Monologue


“Are you ok?” Pete almost sounds concerned.


“Uh, yeah, … can I get some water?”

Pete tells lightbulb-head Ashley to grab a bottle of water from the green room. I can feel her disdain as she brings me the bottle.


“Thanks.” I take a sip and clear my throat. “Can I do my monologue first?” 


Pete seems surprised by my request.


I continue. “I thought about what you said yesterday and you were right, my character’s perspective wasn’t clear. I’d appreciate another chance to make it clear.”


Pete seems intrigued. “OK sure, have at it.”


I blink my eyes for 5 seconds to get focused........... 


“Blood is sticky. A viscous crimson fluid. Regardless of the bleeder - it's all the same. It’s the ultimate leveler of playing fields. Strip the skin off the bone and voila’ …. red, gelatinous liquid. Blood doesn’t care about skin pigment: Brown, ivory, dark, light,… if you’re young or old. It all looks the same in the phlebotomist’s needle.” 


I can see Pete’s eyes roll in the reflection of his glasses. 


I continue.


"When I cut myself, I bleed red. I sit in the corner of my dimly lit room and filet bracelet scars around my wrists and scrape diagonal stripes along my forearms.  The blood that oozes from my superficial, self-inflicted wounds moves slowly as it gets caught in the porous crevices of my skin.


I remember the day I first understood the perks of wearing black. I was in my closet with the door closed. The lava lamp my dad gave me for my birthday was creating ghoulish shapes along the dangling clothes. I drug it in there with me so I could see the body shaped image I was etching into my forearm. Pebbles of red popped from my skin and dripped from near my elbow toward my fingers."


A knock at the door made me jump. 


“Patrice, it’s time to go.” In a panic I quickly pulled down my sleeve. 


“Be right there.” I speak through the door, trying to sound normal, then listen as my mom’s footsteps grow quiet. I pulled up my sleeve and noticed that the blood had soaked into the black lining of my jacket, but only slightly into the leather. Perfect camouflage. Any other color and the stain .... the proof of my discontent, would have been obvious. As the blood dried to crusty black it became even less noticeable and blended into the night-dark pigment. Like me, human in form, colorless, hollow, easily overlooked - hidden behind a caricature facade that covers a deep stain.


That was the day I started wearing black to hide the tracks of blood tears that salivate from my arms.


It was the day I wore the jacket ….. this jacket …… my dad’s jacket…. to his closed casket funeral. The casket was closed because he had put a bullet in his head in our garage, on a Tuesday morning in September - three years ago. My mom was already at work when I found his blood spilled across the grey epoxy floor like a slick canvass of death art. His body was cold, stiff, blue, and his head encrusted with dried blood, ash-black like the dirt grave where we buried him.” 


I stare blankly into the spotlight.


“Blood tears have dribbled from my arms since that day. The sting of cutting softens the image of my dad that aches in my memory. His blood flows in my veins, and in my blood … he lives…….


But it’s all a head-fake blood tonic. I used to hate black. It’s just a practical color choice now because cleaning the “blood tears” makes me feel disloyal to the dead. Blood flows red in life, then dries black in death. It’s the finality of the black that I can’t accept. The cutting is my dad’s epitaph … I am his tombstone."


Except for sniveling lightbulb-head Ashley, the auditorium is as silent as it is dark. Black with non-noise.


“Can I sing now?” 


Pete is dumbfounded and stumbles for answer. “Uh ... Are you sure?”


“Yes.”


“Then by all means. Yes, … please sing.” 


Pete wipes his wet cheeks with the sleeve of his white dress shirt.


I suck in a deep breath and close my eyes, then start. My voice is soft and quivering - but my pitch is perfect.


What can wash away my sin? ….  

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can me whole again? ….. 


I pull the jacket tight and breathe in the smell of the leather – dreaming of my dad’s cologne. My right forearm brushes against the chunky zipper and breaks open a lose scab. 


Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


I sing louder … 


Oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


The warmth of the spotlight feels like the sun on my face.


For my pardon this I see

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing …. 


I start to lose control.


Pete encourages me. “It’s OK - take your time.”


For my cleansing, this my plea…..


Nothing but the bloo ………….


I stop.


Last night’s fresh cuts seep into the sleeves of dad’s jacket as my broken heart leaks all over the stage. I unloose my cement-like boots from the floor, open my eyes and take a step down-stage toward Pete. 


“Do you understand my monologue now, or was that too heavy handed?” 


Pete swallows hard and shakes his head in the affirmative.

October 09, 2021 03:12

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3 comments

Ben Rounds
14:03 Oct 13, 2021

I feel you on the writing process. I have to leave myself lots of time to compulsively re-read, catching little mistakes or miss words when it is too late to change them is a torture. The story was not what I was expecting, nice switch-up kudos

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Karen Kinley
14:51 Oct 11, 2021

Wow. Just wow. This is so raw and powerful and beautifully written! It sounds as though you may have experience with this particular behavior. If so, my heart goes out to you and all those who find some sort of comfort in cutting. My daughter did it for a bit in high school, but it was fleeting, thank God. Such a gorgeous story and so well told. A contender this week for sure!

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Penni Warford
18:25 Oct 11, 2021

Thank you. This story is pure fiction. I am a little disappointed in my bad habit of writing the story a day or two before the deadline then doing my editing at the midnight hour. I inevitably miss things, like an extra word, misspelling, or funky punctuation - which is the case with this story. It is what it is. Thank you again for your positive comments. This is only the third story I have submitted so I'm still getting the hand of the process.

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